Bleach Album Review
Nirvana, Bleach Album Review:
Everyone knows how much of an influence Nirvana have had on the music industry. The explosion of grunge in the early 1990’s eclipsing & eradicating all the hair & glam metal that preceded it, is in large part down to Nirvana’s un-kept look & low-fi lyrically dark music. The explosion is down to there critically acclaimed album Nevermind which received worldwide notoriety for the band. But what about there first album Bleach? Released on June 15th 1989, the debut album for the band received poor sales on release failing to chart at all. Though this is the case the album was still subject to mostly positive reviews from critics. With Bleach firmly in the shadow of it’s successor’s Nevermind & In Uetro how does Bleach fair? Is it simply the album where Nirvana were still fine tuning their sound & finding their feet, or does it deserve to stand side by side with it’s brothers in…..plastic CD cases? Join me for this classic review as I critique Nirvana’s Bleach track by track.
Track 1: Blew
Right off the bat this really set’s the tone for what you’d expect to hear from Nirvana in years to come. That gritty voice of Cobain that breaks out into some really nice higher notes. The bass guitar guiding you into a 3 minute track of such distain for the world around the band. The pulsating noise that continues on throughout the song, whilst Cobain with an almost guttural growl carries the song through. A great opening track that in 1989 would have been a real step away from most rock & metal you would have heard at the time.
Track 2: Floyd the Barber
Featuring characters from the 1960’s sitcom The Andy Griffith Show, the beat kicks in and never deviates throughout the 2 minutes of the track. The subject matter is that of someone being tied to a barbers chair that is being sexually assaulted & later killed. Not the happiest Nirvana song but probably not the most depressing & bleak either. Not a great track for me this one it’s a bit to dark for me to get into without being thought provoking enough to retain my interest.
Track 3: About a Girl
If you’ve never heard this album you’ve more then likely heard this track from their MTV Unplugged set. The most radio friendly verging on pop style lyrics & music, About A Girl is easily one of my favourite Nirvana tracks of all time. I do probably prefer the stripped back version on the live album but the original certainly works well too. Cobain was sceptical about putting this track on the album to begin with due to it being as he said an “R.E.M type of pop song” but I’m very glad he did. Easily the best of the 3 tracks so far when it comes to all aspects of it’s composition.
Track 4: School
“Wouldn’t you believe it it’s just my luck”, “No Recess” & “You’re in high school again” are the only lyrics found here but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The lyrics may not be that ingenious but that opening guitar riff that evolves thrashing about the track throughout is a beautiful thing. If you like songs with deep meanings that require you to think a lot this isn’t for you. But if you like a raw track that strips away the over convoluted lyrics & replaces them with feeling & noise this should be right up your street.
Track 5: Love Buzz
Cover of a track by Dutch rock band Shocking Blue. I do personally prefer the original version which is more of a psychedelic track that has a real Jefferson Airplane vibe to it but this version is great as well. Nirvana do put there own spin on it with a rougher spin on the original track.
Track 6: Paper Cuts
A darker subject mater again here but this one feels a more refined & polished track then that of Floyd the Barber earlier in the record. Sounding much different to the previous tracks with a slower more impending doom pace that builds to some guttural screech’s form Cobain in the choruses. The drums really shine through on this one for me, with the guitar melody clinging on to the back of it. A real Alice In Chains vibe to this one. A deep cut (No pun intended) from the band that I really like. If you haven’t heard this track I’d highly recommend checking it out if you have an interest in this genre of music.
Track 7: Negative Creep
Like School this one isn’t a lyrical masterpiece but does hit the right spot. The frantic pace that is kept up throughout with an almost thrash metal style beat keeping the track rolling on while Cobain’s vocals sound like that of a man who is increasingly becoming more agitated & losing his mind throughout the track before it fades into nothing. Again like school you’re not gonna be blown away by anything here but it’s definitely a highlight of the album so far for me.
Track 8: Scoff
Driving verses that build to a more frenetic chorus, Scoff is a song that is right out of the Nirvana playbook by now. I enjoy the fast paced drum beat in the chorus, guitar work is fine & Cobain’s somewhat painful vocals over the top go well with the track but it’s not one I revisit all that much. Decent album track non the less that doesn’t feel out of place later in this album but nothing special on this one.
Track 9: Swap Meet
Don’t know why but the vocal track just sounds like a sped up version of about a girl but obviously with different lyrics for me. Anyway Swap meet is the same verse & chorus repeated 3 times. The guitar beat drives along in an almost psychotic way that never deviates from it’s course & the same can be said about the drum beat. I enjoyed this one more then the previous track Scoff but again it’s not one that you’ll revisit all to often. A solid album track from the band but it may get lost with the other songs you’ve already heard.
Track 10: Mr. Moustache
A song for Eli Cottonwood. A real punk flavour to this track that like the previous 2 songs have that loud, bellowing guitar & drum beat that stays on one narrow path throughout, though it does build to a somewhat hyperactive pace that gradually pulls you back from the chaotic brink at the precipice of the song. For me, Kurt’s vocals throughout the album really do change in tone, not sure whether you’ll find or experience that but for me it sounds like it could be a number of different vocalists on these tracks. Enjoyable song that I think works better in it’s execution then the previous 2.
Track 11: Sifting
The longest of all the tracks found on the album sits nicely at the end of the album. Cobain’s vocals here sound the closest to the Nevermind album then any of the previous tracks. The song has a slower pace then the previous few hectic tracks which is a welcome change of pace for the end of the album. The drums & guitars pack more of a punch then the previous driving beats. Vocals sound arguably the best out of all 11 tracks on the album with Cobain providing a clean more cultured vocal track then before. I’d be suprised to hear if this wasn’t the last track written & recorded for the album as it for me it’s arguably the tightest of them all. A great way to end the album & another solid album track from the group
Overall Rating 7.5/10
If you’re discovering Bleach after hearing the likes of Nevermind & In Uetro or even the MTV Unplugged CD then you are going to realise this is the weakest of the 4 albums. This however is to be expected as this was the bands first studio album. There are a few forgettable tracks on here for me but with the likes of About A Girl, Sifting & Paper Cuts making up the album it’s still a solid album no the less. Released at a time when glam & hair metal had over saturated the market, this album certainly feels like it’s the under current of a real shift in the music industry, easy to say in hindsight I agree. If you like any type of Rock or Metal then I believe there’s something here to sink your teeth into. It’s not an album you’ll revisit all the tracks off all that much but there is enough here to peak anyone’s interest. A solid debut album for Nirvana that definitely laid the foundation for the grunge juggernaut that they would become.